Did Cowboys make right moves in 2011-12?

IRVING, Texas – Jerry Jones views himself as something of a gambler when it comes to the NFL draft. The Cowboys owner and general manager is willing to take some risks that others may not make.

With their first-round picks the last two seasons, the Cowboys appeared to skip the risky route with Tyron Smith and Morris Claiborne.

Smith was considered the top offensive tackle available in 2011, and Claiborne was the highest-rated defensive player on the Cowboys’ board last spring.

That the Cowboys were able to score both players should be viewed as a positive.

Looking back on those drafts, I wouldn’t have selected either player. It’s not an argument against the player, but an argument against the philosophy. For Smith, the Cowboys left too much on the table. For Claiborne, the Cowboys gave up a lot.

In 2011, I would have made the trade with Jacksonville, giving up the No. 9 pick for picks Nos. 16 and 49. The Cowboys could have had tackle Nate Solder and had an extra second-round pick, in addition to Bruce Carter, whom they took with their own No. 2 selection.

In 2012, I would not have traded with St. Louis to get Claiborne. The Cowboys swapped first-round picks and gave up their second rounder to move up eight spots. Staying at No. 14 would have allowed them to take defensive end Michael Brockers and, so they said, linebacker Bobby Wagner, who excelled as a rookie in Seattle.

If we’ve learned anything from those nonstop AT&T commercials here lately it’s that two is always better than one.

The Cowboys could have had two second-round picks in 2011 instead of one. They could have had first- and second-round picks last year instead of just a first rounder.

It’s not that I don’t believe Smith and Claiborne can develop into top players at their positions. It’s just that they MUST develop into top players at their positions to justify the reasons why the Cowboys went the routes they went the last two years.

Smith has to be better than just solid. He has to be a perennial Pro Bowler, one of those no-doubt top tackles in the NFL. He played well as a rookie at right tackle. He was good last year after moving to left tackle. He needs to be better in 2013.

Because the Cowboys traded up for Claiborne, he has to be better than just solid. He has to be a perennial Pro Bowler, one of those no-doubt top corners in the NFL. He had moments as a rookie, but did he have a signature lock-down play last year? His interception against Carolina was a nice play, but there needs to be more of that. He needs to be better in 2013.

The Cowboys got quality in Smith and Claiborne, but this has been a roster in need of quantity.